It’s impossible to overstate how gleefully layered this moment is.
On Thursday, Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed to the US Supreme Court, after a bipartisan group of senators voted earlier this week to advance her nomination.
Understandably, most discussions of this groundbreaking moment have focused on how the judge’s confirmation has positioned her to become the first black woman to join the high court in its 233-year existence. But the diversity that Jackson reflects is much, much richer than many acknowledge.
“I see myself in you,” Samiya A. Williams, 16, said last month, reading a letter addressed to Jackson during a rally on the steps of the Supreme Court organized by groups led by black women. The purpose of the meeting was to support the judge before her confirmation hearings.
“I appreciate that you have a name that people should take their time to pronounce. I appreciate the tight loops in your dreadlocks that rhyme with mine, in my braids. It motivates me to know that the journey it took to get to this place has many similarities to the one I’m taking right now when I’m 16 years old,” Williams continued.
The day before the rally, Williams told my CNN colleague Jasmine Wright, “My dreams have gotten so much bigger, it seems like overnight.”
Teenagers aren’t the only ones who have been viscerally moved by Jackson’s trip to the Supreme Court.
During the hearings, several Republican senators confronted the judge with dishonest scrutiny and, in particular, mischaracterized her work as a federal public defender. Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey took time to drastically alter the tone of the proceedings, to dispel the ugliness of it.
“You didn’t get there for a leftist agenda,” Booker said, after recalling how a black woman “practically knocked him down” to explain how moved she was to see Jackson sitting in the witness chair. “You didn’t get here because of some ‘dark money’ groups. Here’s how every black woman in America who’s gotten anywhere has done it. Being, as Ginger Rogers put it, ‘I did everything Fred Astaire did, but in reverse, in heels.’ So I’m sitting here saying no one is stealing my joy.”
What follows are reflections from a diverse group of Americans who are also feeling joy at this historic moment. These stories make it clear that Jackson is an endless source of inspiration for many, from a former classmate who has been in awe of the judge since they met in a seventh-grade civics class, to a hairdresser who understands that Jackson breaks the mold in ways sometimes overlooked.
Associate Dean and Professor of Law at Rutgers Law School in Camden, New Jersey
“After witnessing the election of the first black president and then the first black vice president and the first woman, it is truly extraordinary as a black woman now to witness the confirmation of the first black woman to the Supreme Court of the United States. These things seemed almost inconceivable in my youth, and now they are a reality. Justice Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court silences all the critics who said that no black woman was worthy of this honor. Affirm to Black women and girls everywhere that we can go as far as our talents take us. But perhaps most importantly, it signals to the American people how important it is that judges reflect the rich diversity of our nation in all its dimensions.”
Student at the International School of the District of Columbia and activist for social justice.
“Honestly, I cannot express in words how excited I am for this historic moment. It represents the fairness and justice that has not been provided to black people, let alone black women, in America. Representation is vital for all young people, and the fact that we are finally getting the recognition we deserve is simply amazing.”
Chicago Stylist at Lillian Dion Salon
“The confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is a landmark that, to me, is a vision of true success. To excel at any level, tests must occur, and this very public one demonstrates the triumph that many of us lose sight of along the way. It is a moment in time that brings hope, joy and rejuvenation.”
Appellate Partner at Miami-based boutique litigation firm Podhurst Orseck, PA. He previously worked at the Department of Justice and clerked for two federal judges. he and jackson are former classmates and they have known each other for barely 40 years.
“I couldn’t be more proud – Ketanji’s monumental achievement marks the culmination of a lifelong devotion to excellence, hard work and integrity. As Justice Jackson, KBJ will inspire future generations as a true embodiment of the modern American dream.”
Part-time non-traditional law student at Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
“This moment is important because you cannot be what you do not see. It is a visual representation not only for other black women and girls, but for the world to continue to see black women ascend to heights where we have traditionally been omitted. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson represents the promises of this country to its citizens, as well as my parents’ promise that I can be whatever I choose to be.”
Senior attorney at the New York law firm of Washton & Gitto, specializing in financial products. He met Jackson in college, during his first week at Harvard University, where they were roommates for three years. They then went to Harvard Law School together.
“Justice Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court of the United States is an amazing moment in history. To the black community, she represents what can be achieved with hard work and perseverance. I have received so many notes from parents telling me how their children have been inspired by seeing someone who looks like them succeed at the highest levels. For me, this is a surreal moment. We all knew that this was Ketanji’s fate. She was born for this. She has spent her life preparing for this very moment, and she is ready!”
Sabriya I Williams (seen right with his daughter, Samiya)
Co-founder of the Racial Equality Initiative She will get up. He has more than 20 years of experience working to close various disparity gaps for people of color.
“Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination and final confirmation brings us one step closer to every space representing the America we live in. Today we are celebrating the first knowing that it will not be the last”.
Washington, DC-based attorney who previously served as Jackson’s law clerk
“Judge Jackson inspired and energized me every day that I worked alongside her as a paralegal. She continues to be my role model, not only as a minority woman in law, but also (as) a person who gives her all every day with kindness and perseverance. As a judge, she will continue to inspire new generations of young lawyers and I am immensely proud of this great moment for our country.”